Quick, name a marketing strategy that’s now being used by 91% of B2B marketers in a recent industry survey……
What’s more, it’s increasing at such a rate that more than half of those businesses using it plan on increasing their commitment to it in the coming year. Give up? It’s content marketing, and businesses are becoming publishers at breakneck speed.
When adoption of a particular marketing tactic is so universal, and those using it report overwhelming success, it means one thing…. it works, and others are sure to follow suit, although there are few businesses left now that are not using CM in some way already.
Content marketing is an integral part of a broad Internet marketing strategy. It is as one that is gaining importance rapidly as B2B and B2C companies alike recognize how immensely powerful this “under the radar” marketing tactic can be.
Just how many have fallen under content marketing’s powerful spell? According to the report Content Marketing Institute report “B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” 91% of all B2B marketers now count content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy.
You’d think, with adoption rates like that, there’d have to be be a damn good reason, and you’d be right. Hubspot, when compiling their 2013 benchmark report of over 7,000 businesses, discovered powerful correlations between content and both website traffic and leads. In fact, the report showed that businesses with fewer than 100 content pages on their websites are at a huge disadvantage to those that have between 400 and 1,000 pages. Those with the greater number of pages get more inbound leads….. to the tune of more than 300%!
At it’s heart, content marketing is all about doing the one thing any successful business must do to stay viable for the long term; create value for their customers and build relationships. In this case the content’s value is what brings customers in and creates the relationship. It’s this relationship that will eventually generate revenue, and keep it coming in for years to come. In the best case scenario, the relationship spawns a satisfied, lifetime customer, who evangelizes about the company and their experience with them.
How Content Marketing Works for Business Large and Small
Think back to the value proposition. Current and prospective customers are looking for a solution to one or more problems. Content marketing provides them with at least a partial solution, delivering information that helps the customer identify and/or solve their problem. At the very least it reveals more about the nature of the problem and possible solutions to it.
Giving away that content creates a relationship and builds one of the most important things a business can have with their prospective customers; credibility and trust. It builds your brand as a market authority.
All Too Common Content Marketing Mistake: Trying to sell your wares directly from your CM piece. Back off; you’re giving value, informing, and problem solving here, not selling. It’s not a sales letter, it’s an article (or a video, webinar, podcast, etc.)
Due to social media, great content also has significant viral potential. Getting your content shared will multiply it’s effect significantly and increase your brand’s reach far more than you could ever hope to achieve on your own.
Whether the content is strictly online, or a mixture of online and offline, the effect is the same. The business proves to the customer that they are not only qualified to solve the problem in question, but that they are genuinely good people, and can be trusted to form a business relationship with.
The more value the content delivers and the better it puts the customers on the path to solving their problems, the more powerful your content marketing strategy is.
Step One – Create a Content Marketing Plan
Just as with any other kind of marketing campaign, you’ll need a plan. The plan elements are much the same as with any other marketing campaign. You’ll have an objective or set of them, and a road map for achieving your goals.
What to include in your Content Marketing plan?
Goals – What are you hoping to achieve with your content marketing initiative? The more specific goals the better you’ll be able to measure them and correlate your marketing with specific results. You’ll also be better able to determine the next step in the plan….
Content needs – What content do you need to support those goals?
- Sourcing – Where will you get it? You can create it in house, out source it, or both.
- Schedule – When will you publish it?
- Distribution and Promotion – Where will you publish it, and how will you promote it?
- Tracking and Testing – To maximize success, you’ll need to tracking metrics, and be able to correlate them to specific content elements and actions.
- Relevancy – The more relevant your content is to your audience and their problems, the more value you deliver, and greater authority you build.
- Consistency – Positioning your blog or website as the destination for your market requires timely information, delivered on a consistent basis. It not only gives visitors a reason to o there, it gives them reasons to return…… as a bonus, search engines love frequently updated sites; all the better for attracting new prospects.
How Much Content is Too Much?
That begs the question “How much content to give away?” Can you over-deliver content? After all, if a business gives away everything, what is left for them to sell? Who cares? Let them eat cake! Give ‘em the farm, even the prize chickens.
Actually, that’s when market analysis becomes important. It all depends on what kind of solutions you provide. For example, if you sell physical goods, specialized/professional services, or software, the more supporting content you provide, the better.
On the other hand, if you’re an information provider, giving away all your best secrets isn’t the way to go, but you’ll still want to deliver enough of the good stuff. CM success is all about creating the kind of value that builds value, creates authority, and gets shared.
In the B2B arena especially, businesses want to focus on their core competencies. Even with the knowledge, most successful businesses know at the minimum that there is a steep learning curve, and they do not have the in-house expertise to solve the problem in the most timely and effective way possible.
They want to find a solution, but know that in most cases that solution involves retaining outside companies with the expertise and equipment to do the job right, and promptly. In such cases, your content can deliver a tremendous amount of valuable information. It positions your company as the expert in the field.
Many firms that have effectively used this kind of content marketing strategy. In a sense, they have flown the the face of convention, and published tremendously valuable content. In return for their generosity however, they have established incredible reputations, and positioned themselves as one of the “Go To” solution providers in their industry.
Brian Clark of CopyBlogger is one of the best known proponents of this strategy, and one of those who
many industry insiders watched with incredulity, as he gave away more and more marketing strategies for free each week. He continued to attract a larger audience, who recognized him as an authority figure in his market.
As a result, his company, CopyBlogger Media, has grown into a leader in premium WordPress themes and managed hosting. As WordPress became one of the largest blog/website platforms, Clark’s business was perfectly positioned to take advantage of it.
Another firm that has successfully used content marketing to set themselves apart, and position themselves as a leader is American Express. Using their AMEX Open Forum, the company leveraged valuable content, social media, and leveraged leading websites ad blogs to gain broad distribution for their content.
They hired content producers specifically for their Open Forum effort. Doing so enabled them to create the volume of high quality content necessary to make their content marketing efforts a true success. As a result, they’ve significantly grown their small business client base.
How to Create Great Marketing Content
The best content to create for content marketing purposes follows much the same rules as for any other content you create.
The overwhelming goals however, are to make it compelling, informative, and value driven. The better you inform, the more you engage your prospect, and the closer you get them to a solution for their problem, the more successful your campaign will be.
Make your content engaging, ask questions, and tickle people’s fancies. Be controversial, on occasion, and speak with a real, human voice. Show your human side and have content people can relate to. Tell stories, because people love them, especially if they can picture themselves in there somewhere.
You may be able to create this content yourself, or have a staff member do it. In many cases, outsourcing is a viable option, that can help you reach your goals faster.
If you do elect to outsource content, check the provider’s experience, especially if they have direct experience in your market or a closely related one. Ask for samples of past work. For written content, it is also good practice to restrict your search to native English speakers. The U.S. Canada, England and Australia have a plethora of excellent writing talent.
It is not enough that they can write well, though. Remember, you’re writing for an objective. You have a plan, right? A writer should be able to not only write excellent, engaging content, but ensure it drives the reader toward your objective, whether that’s building a relationship, getting them to sign up for your newsletter, or pre-selling them on your company solution.
There also the matter of weaving your target keywords so the search engines bring new visitors to your site, hungry for info on what your company offers. While simply including keywords is no big deal, doing so in such a fashion that it attract search engines while remaining compelling for human visitors (remember, search engines don;t buy anything, you need real humans for that) is vital for your success.
That is a powerful reason to use experienced web content creators, who understand the intricacies of such things. These may be on your staff, or outsourced, but ensure they know how to make the content pull in both real eyeballs and electronic ones.
What Are the Elements of a Successful Content Marketing Strategy?
The following should all be included in your content marketing plan:
- Targeting – Who are you aiming for? As with any marketing campaign, hitting your goals requires aiming at the right target. In this case, the target is that consumer group who will best enable your company to accomplish their goals.
- Focus – Who is the content for (see above), and what exactly is each specific piece of content going to do to help you achieve your goals?
- How to Create Value – Value is common theme here, and with good reason. Not only does high value content lead to the kind of relationship you’re looking for with your customers and prospects, it delivers something else; one of the most powerful aspects of a great content marketing campaign.
Ask – What is your content’s value proposition?
- Consistent Branding – One of the things we’ve seen often during our experience helping companies with their marketing, both content and other forms of marketing, is brand inconsistency. Having your band project a consistent image across all your marketing platforms, throughout your physical locations, vehicles, and communications is paramount.
Consumers love consistency, and your company’s branding should reflect that. Everywhere they go, there you are, and looking the same. Make sure your logo looks professional, reflects the image you’re trying to portray. This should extend to your content marketing campaign. Make sure all your branding for the campaign is consistent with the rest of your business.
- Collaboration – If you’re a marketing agency developing a content marketing campaign for a client, don’t go at it alone. Work closely with the client through the entire process to develop content. That ensures it works and meets the organization’s goals.
Another key to success is publisher collaboration. Work closely with publishers to meet your goals and theirs. That way, your client’s content receives the kind of treatment that makes you both look great.
One more collaboration aspect that many CM practitioners have found success with is using multiple providers for a single publication, blog, or website. Leveraging multiple content creation resources allows you to publish the content volumes recent research has shown is most effective.
Businesses get many times more website visitors and inbound leads when they publish daily, and have a large number of website and/or blog pages. Collaboration allows this to happen much more rapidly, and get your CM efforts contributing to your bottom line, as they should be.
- Distribution – How are you going to distribute so that the right people see it? After all, if your target market never sees your content, it doesn’t matter how fantastic the content creation team was, or how valuable it is.
Increasingly, there is one favored distribution avenue.
What’s that? Social sharing, of course. Getting your content shared to many other interested parties on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn is the marketing pot of gold you’re looking for. It’s one of the two most sought after objectives in any content marketing campaign. Number one is to build a relationship with a foundation of trust and credibility. Number two is to get your message spread far and wide.
After all, it doesn’t matter if you’ve created (or outsourced) world’s most compelling content, if just sits happily on your server for all eternity, right? Your marketing department isn’t going to get that big, quarterly bonus that way, is it? Success means not only producing and publishing effective content, but ensuring the right people see it. We’ll talk more about that next time.
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